Temporomandibular Joint - is the joint that slides and rotates just in front of the ear. It is made up of temporal bone located at the side and base of the skull, and the mandible or lower jaw. The temporomandibular joint makes it possible to chew, by moving your jaw forward and backward, sideways, and open and close. The TMJ works properly if the lower jaw and its movements are synchronized.
A condition known as Temporomandibular Disorder or TMD may manifest if the jaw twists when you open or close your jaw, or move it from side to side. TMD affects jaw muscles, the TMJs, and nerves related to chronic facial pain. TMD is caused by strenuous physical activities, stressful situations, overuse of the muscles, and bruxism or grinding of the teeth. These habits wear out the jaw muscles and lead to headache or neck pain. It may also lead to sensitive teeth, injured soft tissues, muscle soreness, jaw discomfort when eating, and temporal headaches.
TMD should be suspected if you experience an earache without an infection, jaw pain or soreness that occurs in the morning or late afternoon, jaw pain when you chew or yawn, and when you hear clicking when you open and close your mouth. Other symptoms include difficulty opening and closing your mouth, locked jaw when you talk, yawn or eat, and sensitive teeth even when no dental problems are found.
You should not fret if you have TMD. Majority of TMD cases are fairly easy to treat. Treatment involves resting the TMJ and taking non-aspirin pain relievers. Most of the time, TMD treatment is simple and can be done at home. You can practice stress management and relaxation techniques. You can also try sticking your tongue between your teeth to avoid clenching and grinding of your teeth. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you may consult with your dentist for a nighttime mouthguard. More severe cases are treated with physical therapy, ice and hot packs, and posture training. Eating soft foods and refraining from chewing gum also aids in relaxing the jaw muscles.
TMD is usually cyclical and may return when you experience stress. Be sure to have regular dental checkup so you can check for TMD on a regular basis.